Since the moment my wife Jennifer laid eyes on her baby sister, Jessica, they formed a strong bond that has only developed over time. Sure, Jennifer usually acts more like her mother than her sister and yes, there have been a few lively battles resulting in a couple “boo-boos”, but they are as close as any two sisters I have ever known.
That’s why we were thrilled when we learned of a last-minute vacation Jessica planned with her boyfriend, Matt. We were doubly excited because not only were we going to spend time with Jessica, but we were finally going to be able to meet Matt. Living in Italy comes with its obvious benefits, but we do miss out on a lot at home and so we are thrilled any time “home” comes to us. Continue reading Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit→
I had the pleasure of first sampling this rich and tasty dessert at a friend’s house over the holidays. After my first bite I was hooked and inquired after the preparation of the dish. Luckily, everyone here is happy to share their secrets and pass on tips. First, let me explain, chocolate salami is not salami at all (even though Greg wolfs this dessert down, he has a hard time getting past the name). This simple, no bake dessert only resembles salami. This Italian favorite was originally served around the holidays but now is acceptable any time of year. I think it’s the perfect dessert to serve while entertaining. The best part is that you can prepare it ahead of time and store it in the freezer.
INGREDIENTS (serves 8 people)
>One (1) cup of biscotti or dry cookie broken into pieces >Eight (8) ounces of dark chocolate. I used 70% >One (1) stick of high quality butter, softened >Two (2) eggs, very fresh >Half (½) cup of sugar >Quarter (¼) cup, freshly brewed espresso >Confectioners’ sugar, as needed >Chopped nuts optional (I didn’t use them but I think I will try next time)Continue reading Fun With Food ~ Chocolate Salami→
Man, do I love the bad puns in my titles or what? Probably about as much as I love posing rhetorical questions to my readers…
Roughly twelve days ago, I was as proud of myself as Arvind Mahankali when he successfully spelled knaidel to beat Pranav Sivakumar and secure the championship title during the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee (apparently, this particular Indian-American knows a thing or two about Jewish comfort food). Why was I so pleased with myself, you ask? Well, I thought that I had finally caught up with our stories on the blog. And then a whirlwind of activity commenced in a flash as Jen’s sister arrived for a visit with her boyfriend. We had such a nice time traveling and eating with them (really, is there anything else you would want to do in Italy?) that now I have a ton more to write about. Additionally, we left them to their own devices while we embarked on a rewarding road-trip, which I cannot wait to tell you about. So, now once again – I am behind the times again faster than you can spell prosciutto.
When I was looking ahead toward the next 5-8 posts, I realized that I would be remiss not to step back and mention our visits to Pisa and then Massa in northern Tuscany. When I last wrote, I detailed our trip to Lucca (HERE). During the drive home we detoured to marvel at the Torre pendente di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa) before getting back on the road. We hadn’t traveled too much further when our perfectly timed Italian stomachs told us it was time for lunch (at first I thought our three stomachs growling in unison was a tractor-trailer honking furiously at me). I was more in the mood for a leisurely lunch than a quick stop at an AutoGrill (picture a rest-stop along the NJ Turnpike with better food and espresso). I turned to my trusty “TripAdvisor” cell phone app and searched for a restaurant near us. I discovered Il Fatty (yeah… you guessed the translation; The Fatty) in the city we were approaching. With a name like, “the fatty” – how could you go wrong?! I took the exit toward Massa and headed into the center of town. Continue reading You “Massa” Check Out This City (Massa, Italy)→
Who doesn’t love a good festival? The combination of food, games and fun in an outdoor setting is always guaranteed to be a success. I mean, what more could you ask for? But if the name of the festival is Primavera dei Vini (Wine in the Springtime) and the location is in the remote Italian countryside – then you’ve got all the ingredients you need and more!
If you check Wikipedia to learn about Rovescala, you will discover that this small commune (municipality) is located about 50km southeast of Milan. Aaaaand… basta (stop). That’s it. If you research the festival itself, you’re likely to uncover only two or three short blog posts about it, aaaaaand… basta! So this event is a relatively unknown festival in a small, remote Italian town – why on earth would anyone be interested in going?! Because it’s a relatively unknown festival in a small and remote Italian town, of course! In our experience, these are usually the best gatherings – genuine and unpretentious, just as it should be in Italy.
Sicilia (Sicily) was the birthplace of the original Godfather, Don Vito Corleone; its shoresharbored his son, Michael Corleone and recently the island hosted Don Greggorio and his small family. My only disappointment in visiting Sicily was that my wife, Jen wouldn’t let me wear a white suit and hat while walking around passing out fruit like I was Don Vito himself. Oh well, there’s always next time…
I was so excited to visit Sicily because I’ve wanted to see this unique part of the country for as long as I can remember. This region of Italy is so far south from where we live that I wasn’t sure if we would ever get the opportunity to explore the island while living here. Sicily boasts a plethora of interesting facts that I couldn’t begin to detail in a single post. However, perhaps the most interesting few points are that the island is the largest in the Mediterranean, archeological evidence dates human inhabitants are far back as 8,000 BC and the terrain has changed hands dozens of times (from Greek to Byzantine to Roman and all over again and again).
On a particularly warm and sunny day this week, Greg and I and decided to ditch the pasta and opted instead to share a lighter lunch. We all love shrimp (especially Julia) so we decided to try our luck with Shrimp Scampi. I have never made this dish before so I did some research and looked at a few different ways it is prepared. After evaluating the ingredients I had lying around the house, I came up with a simple recipe for my first attempt at this classic dish. I have to say – we were all pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.
I was pleased to see Greg fare la scarpetta, or “to do the little shoe”. This is a term the Italians have come up with that I adore. When you have a delicious sauce that you can’t stand to leave behind, you can use a piece of bread to mop it up. I would encourage you to be sure that you have plenty of good bread for you or your guests to do la scarpetta! Continue reading Fast and Tasty Shrimp Scampi Recipe→
If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog or have spent a little time playing around on the pages, you’ll see that I’ve started a “series” that highlights some of the differences between Italy and our native America. Some of the differences are strange to us, many of them make perfect sense and others are just plain silly. If you’d like to see where the series began, take a look back here:
If you’ve been a reader of this [travel] blog for sometime, I may have convinced you about the benefits of cruising. You might even think that I’m lobbying for a job with one of the major cruise companies… and seeing as how I’ll need to resume gainful employment sooner rather than later, you may just be right. If I haven’t yet convinced you to book your next vacation on a massive floating wonderland, let me quickly state my case once again. Cruising offers you the opportunity to be pampered day and night while visiting far-off locales in multiple countries without unpacking more than once. You can soak up culture, splurge on shopping, enjoy theatre, gamble in the casino, relax in the spa or simply sit in your room and enjoy room service while taking in the most magical of views.
On top of all that, you will enjoy delectable cuisine any time of day or night. In my opinion (which, I’ve found is more fact than opinion since I’m right 98.8% of the time… just ask Jen), one of the best things about cruising is the food. I once read that the weight gain for your average cruise-goer can be up to a pound a day (do the math for a two week cruise). If the food can be the star of the show, truth be told – it can also be the downfall of your vacation if you’re served meals that are no better than bad banquet food (and you thought you had a lousy meal at Moritz Rosenstien’s bar mitzvah?). That is why careful research about your cruise line (and more importantly, the specific cruise ship) is of the utmost importance. We chose our most recent Mediterranean cruise on one of Celebrity Cruises newest ships, the Silhouette based on the itinerary and overwhelmingly positive reviews of the food. We were not disappointed.
If you are notoriously known for having eyes that are bigger than your stomach, then Italy is the ideal place for you during the holidays. You will eat some of the most delectable food known to man… but you will certainly eat far too much of it! If you possess a willpower stronger than mine and think to yourself, “nonsense Greg, I always stop eating when I am full” then you are mistaken.
A table like this means it’s impossible to pace yourself
First, it is impossible to “budget” your intake. You will definitely want to sample all the delicious and unique treats on the table. The courses come in waves bigger than Australia’s Gold Coast and there is no telling when they will stop crashing on the table. So even if you simply try a little of everything, you’re still going to eat three times more than a normal meal. But that’s hardly the main reason. If you are a visitor in someone’s home, the hostess is absolutely going to give you the largest portions. And before you’re even done, you should expect seconds. This will continue over and over until a cold sweat starts to break above your brow. The trifecta of being force fed occurs if:
A) you are a man (and therefore expected to eat copious amounts of food)
B) you are a visitor from another country (Italians are very hospitable and eager to show off their regional specialties)
C) you are in a house where a nonna (grandma) is present (as if the hostess herself wasn’t enough, a nonna is guaranteed to guilt you into taking another several portions of food) Continue reading Christmas in Italy… Your Taste Buds Will Thank You, Your Stomach Will Not→
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow – here is a suggestion of something you can do to dress up your leftovers.
Risotto is a favorite of mine; winter, spring, summer or fall. While cooking risotto, I like to use fresh, seasonal ingredients – and with fall comes all things pumpkin. So, this was my chance to combine one of my favorite dishes with one of my favorite fall flavors.
Risotto con zucca (Risotto with pumpkin)
However, when it came to the Thanksgiving dinner we just had, I knew it would be too much for a first course. While risotto is relatively simple to prepare it is time consuming and requires my undivided attention for at least 20 minutes. I decided instead to create a new family tradition. My plan was to serve pumpkin risotto the day after Thanksgiving, along with all of the other delicious leftovers. I think it’s a perfect way to add a new element to a meal we’ve already eaten a couple times over by lunch the next day. I had plenty of left over zucca (pumpkin) from the soup course, which worked out perfectly. I have officially converted Greg into a pumpkin/squash lover. If you want to add some Italian flavors to your holiday meal this year, check out my simple recipe. I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do. Continue reading Adding Italian Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Leftovers→